Learners are earners.
I’ll repeat that: learners are earners.
As entrepreneurs, we’re living in a more connected, digital world than ever before. “Keeping up” has never been more important. I’ve always believed that I didn’t need to know everything about running a business, as long as I was willing to learn everything I needed to know. It’s the one thing I will attribute most of my success to. The best way to grow a photography business is to grow your mind. My own journey of education has been a wild ride. I’m going to share my top 5 strategies for growing your business through self-education. I hope they’ll inspire you to invest your most valuable asset—your mind.
Somewhere between the counselors office of my small town Nevada high school, and the college admissions process, I decided that I didn’t want to go to just ‘any old school.’ And by any old school, I meant UNR (the University of Nevada, Reno) or UNLV (the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where at the time, with a certain GPA, I could attend for free). No, I set my sights on the schools that made their way into the movies. The kind that students with big college funds or scholarships were eyeing. (Of which I had neither, but didn’t really know it at the time. More on that later.) Those schools were Harvard, Columbia and UC Santa Barbara.
You see, my first requirement was to go somewhere far, far away. Going to high school in Nevada was amazing but I was craving something, anything new. And the second requirement was to truly learn. I wanted to learn about things I didn’t even know I should be learning about. I wanted to soak up the wisdom from my professors, as well as the students who came from backgrounds foreign to mine. And I wanted the full college experience. Maybe that’s where it started—my desire to learn, learn and learn some more.
Fast forward just a bit, and I eventually learned that I didn’t have a college fund. As the twists and turns of life would have it, none of the fancy schools I lusted after were in the cards for me. But fate was still on my side (as it often is) and brought forth another option that I didn’t even know existed. After winning a national photography competition, I was granted a scholarship to a photography school. And it just so happened to fulfill one of my requirements: being far, far away. In Western Massachusetts, in fact.
The Hallmark Institute of Photography was an intense trade school. It wasn’t exactly teeming with the cultural college experience I’d hoped for, but the fast track education and very little fluff (or time off) suited me.
The idea was to learn fast, get out into the world and get to work—where I discovered you learn even more. I didn’t learn from college professors; but instead, from fashion photographers and photo crews (yes, that’s me below hauling equipment—on the left). I didn’t study culture in a classroom; but found it traveling the world as a photographer’s assistant and, later, as a digital tech.
Ultimately, my quest to keep learning and always tackling things that seem over my head has been a fun, wild ride. It’s also become my superpower and the #1 most reliable way to fuel and grow a photography business—or any business, for that matter.
My life continues to take a winding path. And while my education looks very different than I imagined it back then, it’s become a reliable constant. A continual practice that I put my full faith and trust in—a religion of sorts.
Because I’m constantly seeking out better and better sources and modes of educating myself, I want to share my findings with you.
The simplest, cheapest and most economical way to learn. Books, the best ones at least, stand the test of time. Read new books full of new ideas, but be sure to read the old ones too. Get lost in the simplicity of the page and the worlds that are unlocked outside of a screen.
I can’t think of a better reason for reading than what entrepreneur Patrick Collison says on the value of reading:
It might not come as a surprise that in creating my own online program, I was first an online student. From learning photography from the greats like Annie Leibowitz, to how to create my first digital course or improve my business, I’m a devoted online course student. It can be easy to take for granted the ability to sit in the comfort of our own homes and learn from experts from every single walk of life. But the magic isn’t lost on me. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, join us inside my signature program when we open enrollment again. You can join the waitlist here.
Similar to online programs, the power of having experts at our fingertips and on our phones is, well, magic. I find that I do some of my best learning while moving. And whether it’s a long run or a brisk walk, I find a meditative quality to putting my podcasts on 2x and getting lost in another world for 42 minutes.
Mastermind programs have been a new experience for Chad and I. As we look to challenge ourselves to reach that next level—personally and professionally—a mastermind program allows us to surround ourselves with others looking to do the same. We joined a high-level, business mastermind for digital entrepreneurs. There’s so much to learn about how to grow a photography business from the experience of other business owners. From monthly coaching to three, in-person retreats, it’s been a life- and business-changing experience.
If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that the walls of our comfort zones (homes) aren’t always designed for exceptional growth and learning. Don’t get me wrong, 2020 was uncomfortable and scary. Heck, I didn’t know going to the grocery store could be so scary! But I did realize that being home A LOT, wasn’t really challenging me. But those crazy flight itineraries; the cities I’ve never been to; and the language barriers, new food and unknown places— they keep me on my toes.
It turns out that a certain amount of discomfort is actually necessary for real growth and learning. Who knew?
Check out 7 of the Best Destination Wedding Locations that you should visit for any reason and the best vacation I ever took here.
In a nutshell, the most reliable way to grow a photography business is to educate yourself. There’s nothing you can’t learn that you’re willing to put your mind to. That’s my current recipe for ensuring that the number one thing I’m always hedging on is myself.
But you’d better believe that I’ll not only continue to educate myself, but that I’ll continue to educate myself on the best ways to learn. Updating our modes of learning is just as important as what we’re learning.
So keep at it! Never stop learning. And you’ll never stop earning.
've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.
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